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Malindi History

Vasco Da Gama, MalindiThe history of Malindi can be traced as far back as the 14th century when it existed as a small settlement known as Melinde inhabited by the local Mijikenda community. This is a group of nine tribes that include the Kauma, Ribe, Giriama, Kaambe, Rabai, Digo, Duruma, Chonyi and Jibana tribes. Located some 120 km north east of the city of Mombasa, Malindi later transformed itself to a small trading center where ivory and agricultural produce were the main commodities. This attracted the Swahili speaking people from as far as Zanzibar and Pemba Islands in Tanzania, some of who settled in Malindi to this day.

Located on the mouth of Galana River that flows into the Indian Ocean at the Malindi Bay, the trading center is a natural harbor. This made it possible for Zheng He, a Chinese explorer to pay Malindi a visit in 1414, upon which he was given a giraffe as a present by the local community leaders. Malindi was later to be visited by Vasco da Gama in 1498 on his way to India. Vasco da Gama needed a guide with knowledge of the monsoon winds to direct him to India. He contracted the services of an expert pilot and was able make it safely to Calicut in India. On his return journey, he erected a pillar, that still stands today and which was named after him. The Portuguese were later to establish their presence in Malindi for the purpose of trade. Slave trade later became prominent and Malindi became one of slave collection points before they were transferred to the slave market in Zanzibar for onward shipping to the Arab Peninsula, India and in some cases even the Caribbean.

Malindi was later to grow and rival Mombasa as a major trading center. Its fortunes however dwindled as most Arab and Swahili-speaking people moved to Mombasa. Malindi later witnessed increased growth due of its suitability as a fishing location and is presently one of Kenya’s main tourist hot spots renowned for its beautiful white sandy beaches and the warm weather all year round.